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River Street Club bathhouse, Albany, New York

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Perched on the east bank of the Hudson River a little less than 10 miles north of Albany, the city of Troy, New York may be the smallest in the country with a gay bathhouse. Only about 50,000 people live in Troy, but the city is part of a metro area of more than 850,000 that includes Albany, Schenectady, and a number of suburbs and smaller communities. Also keep in mind that New York City has very few gay saunas, and Boston has none - this makes Troy's River Street Club (540 River St., just off I-787 - take Route 7 east from exit 9E, 518-272-0340) one of the few such facilities in the Northeast. Providence, Rhode Island, with its popular Mega-Plex and Club Body Center, is the only other real option for men looking to hook up with other gay men in a bathhouse setting.

Like most gay bathhouses, River Street Club is a private club to which a membership is required. You can buy a one-day pass, or a membership good for six months. The six-month deal costs $50, versus $15 for a one-day pass, so if you're planning to come back a few times, buy the pass. Additionally, there are rates for visiting, for a basic locker and about twice that for deluxe rooms.

River Street Club isn't a big facility, but it is clean and well-kept, with a gym, four-man sauna, steam room, six-man hot tub, and showers. The crowd tends toward the over-30 side, but this is a part of New York with numerous colleges and universities, and it's not uncommon to see students in here, especially on late evenings. It's an easy drive here from Lark Street in Albany, which contains the bulk of the area's gay bars.

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